Another “where was Zoe?” catch-up post.
At the start of 2011, I’d planned to finish my phd by september. In july, we’d pushed the end-date back to early 2012 so I could write more papers. Which is great! Yay papers! But by september, the grey skies of a Glasgow summer and the apparent endlessness of my phd were getting to me, and I was well and truly ready for a holiday. I don’t think my advisor was surprised when I emailed him one day and said, “I’m taking a few days off.”
That was pretty much all the prior preparation I’d made for this trip. The night before I was supposed to leave, I was madly researching places within a few hours of Glasgow, and had a gchat with a friend who had travelled in Scotland more than me, consisting mostly of me saying “where should I gooooo? I can’t decide anything and the weather forecast is bad everywhere :/” So, on the basis of a toin coss and his suggestion that “Arran is nice, it’s like a mini-Scotland, and it’s easy to get to”, I hopped on a train to the coast on a drizzly morning, with a backpack full of books just in case the rain kept up all week.
Arran turned out to be exactly the right place for a quiet few days away in autumn. Some things that stick out in my memory, in no particular order:
- Seeing Goat Fell emerging from the clouds as they lifted a bit on my first afternoon:
- Not understanding more than 10% of what the landlady of my b&b said in the four days I was there. I thought I was ok with Scottish accents after several months in Glasgow, but not Aberdeen accents, it turns out. She was lovely though, as was her husband (who was in charge of cooking the full scottish breakfast every morning). They were both full of suggestions of places to see and optimism each day that the weather would surely clear up after a bit of morning rain.
- Seeing plants and animals other than the pigeons, grey squirrels and rats that live in Glasgow: red squirrels! pheasants! sea lions! deer! those toadstools with the red caps with white dots! (true story, I had seriously thought they were fictitious, because they’d always been presented as the place where fairies live)
- Sitting on the bus between villages on the west coast of the island, with the sea on my left and green hills on my right, and everything bathed in late-afternoon magic light. I was heading back to my b&b after an afternoon of hiking, and it is hard to imagine a more perfect autumn day.
- Even getting some full sunshine one morning:
(In case you’re wondering: in the end, I only read 1 of the books I’d brought — a rather depressing Margaret Atwood novel.)